More Right Track Evidence

Today, the Global Detroit, in partnership with the New American Economy and Detroit Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, released new data on the impact that immigrants are having in the revitalization of Detroit and its neighborhoods. The “New Americans in Detroit” findings will be fairly familiar to those who have read the original 2010 Global Detroit study, our blogs and newsletters, as well as our tracking of recent immigration growth in the city.

Detroit’s immigrant population grew by more than 4,000 residents or 12.1 percent between 2010-2014, while the U.S.-born population, unfortunately, continued to decline by more than 30,000 residents or 4.2 percent. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has noted that the single most important metric upon which to judge the city’s health is population growth and these numbers paint a clear picture—consistent with the experience of every major American Rust Belt city—that stabilizing Detroit’s population requires robust immigration. In fact, no major American city has rebounded from decades of population loss without significant immigration growth.

Detroit serves as a great American city benefitting from the talent and hard work of immigrants,” said John Feinblatt, President of New American Economy. “Immigrants not only help revive and power local sectors like agriculture and construction, but also start businesses that create jobs both in the city and the state of Michigan.”

The New Americans in Detroit data provides insight about how immigrant entrepreneurs in the city are helping to revitalize our neighborhoods by investing, not in downtown or Midtown (although they do that too), but in the neighborhood commercial strips along West Vernor Highway and Michigan Avenue in Southwest Detroit, along Conant in Banglatown, and along West Warren Avenue in the Cody-Rouge neighborhood, creating jobs and much-needed activity across the city. In fact, while immigrants comprise only 5.6 percent of the city’s population, they make up 14.8 percent of the city’s self-employed, generating over $15 million in annual business income, thousands of jobs, and millions in tax revenues.

While about 90 percent of the state’s 32,000 international students study at college and universities outside of the city’s limits, over 3,000 international students currently study at schools like Wayne State University within the city. These students contribute an estimate $80 million in local economic activity through their tuition dollars, local rent, food consumption, and other expenditure, supporting an estimated 1,100 jobs within the city!

Working with the City Council’s Immigration Task Force to declare Detroit to be a welcoming city, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has created an Office of Immigrant Affairs, developed a Municipal ID card, designed and implemented plans that have helped over 250 new refugees to settle in the city (the first significant resettling of refugees within city limits in over a decade). Mayor Duggan also is working with nonprofit partners, like Global Detroit, to build more inclusive neighborhoods in which immigrants and African-American neighbors are collaborating together to create economic opportunities, rehab vacant houses, catalyze the development of new entrepreneurs, and bridge cross-cultural divides between residents of diverse races, ethnicities, religions, and national origins.

If Mayor Duggan, the city of Detroit, community development industry, and local foundations want to be a city “for all of us” with thriving neighborhoods, rehabbed housing, blossoming neighborhood business districts, job creation, and a stabilizing population and tax base, then they need to look no further than to invest in and build upon the progress being made in welcoming and retaining immigrants and building inclusive neighborhoods that foster deep connections and asset building opportunities for immigrants and their neighbors. Today’s data release underscores that reality.

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